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PUFAs May Help Reduce Teen Allergy and Asthma Risk

Allergies and asthma often surface during childhood and adolescence, but there may be a way to dodge that bullet. According to some research, high levels of polyunsaturated fatty acids, or PUFAs, in childhood could help reduce the risk of asthma and allergies in teens. PUFAs are found in foods such as nuts and seeds, vegetable oils, oily fish, poultry, and eggs. The study was published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology and included data from 940 children participating in a Swedish study that followed participants from birth to identify factors associated with allergies. Blood samples were taken when the children were 8 years old to measure levels of PUFAs, including the very long-chain omega-3 fatty acids docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosapentaenoic acid (DPA), as well as the very long-chain omega-6 fatty acid arachidonic acid (AA). The researchers evaluated the children at ages 8 and 16 for allergies and asthma via questionnaires and levels of IgE antibodies—a marker of the immune system’s allergic response and found:

  • Higher levels of very long-chain omega-3 and omega-6 PUFAs at age 8 were associated with a lower risk of asthma, hay fever symptoms, and sensitivity to airborne allergens such as pollen, animal dander, and dust mites at age 16.
  • Higher levels of AA were also associated with a greater chance of asthma and hay fever symptom remission between ages 8 and 16.

Some of these findings are supported by other research indicating an association between higher levels of very long-chain omega-3 PUFAs and a reduced risk of asthma in preschool-aged children; however, this study goes a step further and examines these relationships into adolescence. While it’s still unclear exactly how PUFAs affect the development of asthma and allergies, some theorize that their anti-inflammatory and complex immune-regulating effects may help reduce the immune system’s response to allergens. To ensure your child maintains adequate PUFA levels, make sure they eat a well-rounded diet and serve fish two to three times a week.

Source: Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology

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